Premier League • England

Chelsea rivalling Liverpool for De Ligt, as Lukaku exit tees up three blockbuster Prem captures

Matthijs De Ligt of Juventus during the Serie A match at Allianz Stadium

Chelsea are ‘very interested’ in rivalling Liverpool to sign Matthijs de Ligt, while the impending Romelu Lukaku exit could spark a burst of action at Stamford Bridge.

The Blues are lagging behind their rivals this summer with their tally of frontline arrivals currently unmoved at zero. Their need to add centre-back reinforcements is clear following the exits of Antonio Rudiger and Andreas Christensen. Rudiger has signed for Real Madrid, while Christensen is expected to complete a free agent switch to Barcelona.

Chelsea have been heavily linked with frequent target Jules Kounde once again. Interest in the Frenchman is now reaffirmed by Sky Sports, though a more high profile target in Matthijs de Ligt is also on their radar.

That is the news coming from Sky Italia who note the Dutchman, 22, currently holds a whopping release clause worth £103m.

The report stated Chelsea would not be prepared to activate that clause. However, they are deemed ‘very interested’ in forging a deal at a lower price.

To do so, they would have to convince Juventus to sell a reliable player who still has two years remaining on his contract. What’s more, they may also have to beat out Liverpool who were surprisingly linked with the centre-half by another outlet in Italy.

Jurgen Klopp reportedly wishes to pair Virgil van Dijk with his international teammate De Ligt. Whether that is a fantasy or a reality remains to be seen, but is something Juventus would hope is true to help drive up De Ligt’s price.

Regardless, Sky Sports’ Kaveh Solhekol added his take to the reports from Italy. The journalist claimed Romelu Lukaku’s imminent loan back to Inter Milan is poised to spark a series of transfers at Stamford Bridge, potentially starting with De Ligt.

Juventus player Matthijs De Ligt (right) with girlfriend AnneKee Molenaar (left) are guests of the presentation of "All or Nothing: Juventus”. Juventus Football Club

“It’s good news for Chelsea that this situation [Lukaku’s exit] has been sorted out as they can really now press play when it comes to signing players. We know they want to sign a centre-back because Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rudiger have left.

Sky Italy are telling us that they’re very interested in signing Juventus centre-back Matthijs de Ligt.

“His situation is a little bit complicated as he still has two years left on his contract but Chelsea would like to sign him.

“He has a release clause which is around €120m. There’s no way Chelsea would pay that sort of money for him.”

Three Prem superstars eyed

Aside from De Ligt, Solhekol added a deal for Kounde could quickly come back into focus. The Sevilla ace was a target for Chelsea in each of the last two windows.

Furthermore, superstar names at Everton, Leeds United and West Ham were also confirmed to be on Chelsea’s radar.

“Another defender they’re interested in is Jules Kounde at Sevilla,” added Solhekol. “They’ve been trying to sign him for a very long time. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were major developments on that front.

“They’re interested in Richarlison and Raphinha. The long-term target is Declan Rice who’d be very difficult to sign but now that Lukaku has been sorted out, expect to see a lot of deals being done by Chelsea.”

Who should Chelsea sign?

De Ligt and Kounde would be excellent additions to Thomas Tuchel’s rearguard. Both are in their early-mid twenties and have their best years ahead despite already being high level operators.

A move for West Ham’s Rice sounds good on paper. Though the Hammers have repeatedly stressed their talisman won’t be sold for under £150m. If Chelsea are to sign two centre-backs and a new forward, a Rice deal is highly unlikely in the same window.

Richarlison and Raphinha would represent Premier League-proven options in the final third. Neither are out and out centre-forwards, however, meaning Kai Havertz or Timo Werner would likely compete for the central role.

There has been talk of the Blues hijacking Arsenal’s move for Gabriel Jesus. Fellow Man City attacker Raheem Sterling is another on Tuchel’s radar, though both could cost upwards of £50m.

Regardless, the type and profile of player linked with Chelsea suggests Tuchel is seeking a more mobile and fluid frontline. In hindsight, it’s no surprise that the more battering-ram style approach of Lukaku did not mesh well with Tuchel’s system.